June 24, 2004

Plantronics M3000 headset review

I've been using the Plantronics M3000 bluetooth headset for a while, and though slightly late to the party, I've finally had a chance to write up my review on it.

I got one of these shortly after they first came on the market, so I've had plenty of time to work with it. My primary goal in picking up a headset for use with my Nokia 3650 was that it have Bluetooth capability, be somewhat stylish, and also be very light.

I was originally looking at their M1000, apparently no longer made, it was a boom style affair with the microphone right up by your mouth, and was very light, but unfortunately supported an older Bluetooth profile not used on my newer phone, and so back it went.

The M3000 seemed to be what I needed, with a weight of only 30 grams, and a very long (advertised 8 hours) talk time, and a reasonably attactive look. After having had some real world experience with it, I'd like to share my thoughts.

First, the headset looks like something out of Star Trek, my wife always calls me Uhura when I forget to take it off after getting home. I've had a number of folks ask me about it both at work and while out in public, reactions are almost always very positive. Wireless headsets are a new concept to most folks, and I think that folks really can appreciate not having all those wires running down from your ear to wherever you keep your phone.

The range on the headset is also pretty good. Normally, my phone is worn on a belt clip, but I've also answered my phone from across the room, or sometimes left the phone at my desk accidentally while walking to another part of my office, and don't notice the phone's not with me till I'm at least 30 feet away or more (30 feet is the advertised limit, and is also the limit definied in the Bluetooth specs, and this may vary depending on your phone).

Battery life is impressive, the advertised specs are 8 hours of talk time, and 200 hours (about 8 days) of standby time. I've never once had the battery go dead, but I normally turn the unit off when not in use (evenings/nights), and only charge it about once every 3-4 weeks, or whenever it occurs to me that I haven't charged it in a while. Seriously, why would you leave the headset turned on when you're sleeping?

The controls on the headset are conveniently placed, answering and disconnecting is accomplished by pressing the large button in the center of the headset, volume up/down are along the top edge, and the power on/off/mute button is right next to the volume buttons.

The one feature I'm not crazy about is that while on mute, the headset will produce a tone about every 30 seconds to remind you that you're on mute. This wouldn't be so bad if the tone were a bit softer, and it also interrupts the call you're listening to, rather than just beeping in the background, so you may miss bits of conversation, which can be quite annoying.

The noise cancelling microphone is very good, the audio quality is equal to that of my Nokia 3650, people I've asked can't tell if I'm using a headset versus the cell phone itself, which is good. Wind is probably the worst problem, but my cell phone has the same problem. I've found that while in the car, I'll need to turn down the blower and roll up the windows to cut down on wind noise, but again this is no different than what I'd do with my cell phone anyway.

My one major complain is with the plastic ear loop included with the headset. The earloops included are reversible for left/right ear, and come in two sizes, a large and a small, to better fit your ear. I've found the plastic loops to be rather stiff and uncomfortable when worn for long periods, but the fact that I also wear glasses may also be a large factor here. Plantronics does however offer what they describe as 'extra comfort ear loops' for an additional charge, but my feeling is that these should have been included with the headset from the beginning. I've always found Plantronics headsets to be very comfortable to wear (I used to have one on my desk phone at work), and would have thought that the more comfortable ear loops should have been standard. This extra set though does include a third, medium size earloop, so you're almost guaranteed to have an excellent fit between those available choices.

The M3000 has a suggested retail price of $139.95, but a quick web search has found prices as low as $61.77 currently.

Recently Plantronics has begun shipping the new M3500 headset, an identical form factor, but with improved noice cancellation and audio fidelity thanks to digital signal processing circuitry. Battery time has been reduced greatly (3.5 hours talk, 76 hours standby), but this model does include the extra comfort ear loops, a car lighter charging cable, and a form fitting pouch for when you're not wearing the headset. This unit retails for $169.95, and can be found online for as low as $85. For my money, I'd go with the M3500 over the M3000, the improved ear loops alone make it money well spent.

Posted by Jim at June 24, 2004 10:04 PM | TrackBack